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Sketches and Studies

Franciscan Allegory in Honor of the Immaculate Conception, 1631–32, by Peter Paul Rubens

Before beginning their paintings, artists often produce preparatory sketches and studies to refine their compositions. But these sketches and studies are hardly just a means to end—for centuries, artists and collectors have valued these works for their liveliness and informality. Sometimes artists have even blurred the lines between their sketches and finished works, bringing a sketch-like spontaneity to their finished paintings, or exhibiting sketches publicly. Browse a selection of painted sketches and studies from the museum’s collections of European Art.